Hgeocities.com/collectumhermeticus/originsofmagick.htmgeocities.com/collectumhermeticus/originsofmagick.htm.delayedxnJ%ØOKtext/htmlu:Øb.HFri, 12 Dec 2003 18:52:20 GMT)Mozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *nJØ THE ORIGINS OF THE HERMETIC THEORY OF MAGIC - Magick - Occult - Hermeticism

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THE ORIGINS OF THE HERMETIC THEORY OF MAGIC

by Mark D F Shirley  


The copyright of this article remains with the original author. Articles may be copied or distributed freely for personal non-profit use, provided that the author is properly credited.



The origins of the Hermetic Theory of Magic, by Cogitabunda scholae Bonisagi.

I have already described the magical practises that existed before the formation of the Order of Hermes, and that still exist today, beyond its purview. In this essay I intend to examine the origins of the magic of the Order. To do this I must first look at the life and works of Bonisagus, who formulated the Theory of Hermetic Magic. I will then proceed to identify the magics of the other eleven Founders, and how they contributed to the theory of magic.

Bonisagus was born circa AD 710 in what is now the German Empire of Rome. He was one of the few remaining heirs to the magics of forgotten Rome, more specifically the Cult of Mercury. The Temple of Mercury was one of the foremost priesthoods in Rome before the Empire. This priesthood used its powerful ritual magic to help defend Rome from its worst enemies and to protect her conquering armies as they united the Mediterranean world. In the second century BC, the high priest Plentarch of the Pompeii temple had codified the rituals of the Cult of Mercury into thirty-eight spells, each of which had to be studied separately. Most of these spells were elaborate rituals that required scores of wizards who were tightly bound to each other by training and purpose - the more that were gathered, the more powerful was the spell. With the coming of the Empire, trouble came to the Mercurian priesthood. Infighting and jealousy of the relative standing of various temples with the emperor began to fragment the Mercurians. Soon, the emperors themselves became fearful of the power wielded by these Mercurian priests, and their agents contributed to the disunity within the order. By the middle of the second century, no two temples were on speaking terms, and some temples overtly threatened and attacked others, looting their precious stores of knowledge and wealth. The emperor Septimus Severus finally declared the Temple of Mercury outlaw, revealing that its priests did not offer worship to the pagan gods or to the divine emperors, but instead, worshipped the power of magic itself. Throughout the empire, Mercurian priests hid from the legions, seeking places of power far from human habitation and taking their knowledge of magical power with them.

It is from these priests that many of the Founders where ultimately descended. Their power was drastically reduced because of their enforced separation from each other, but distrust and selfishness had prevented them from getting together. Instead, they started to study other magics than the Theurgy (see my previous essay) that had been the mainstay of the Cult of Mercury's power. Much of this magic came from the days before Rome, magic that the Cult had eschewed in favour of the rituals of Mercury. Pliny the Elder and his Naturalis Historia became the new authority, having recorded the natural magic of ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Hippocrates and Sophocles, along with the lore of the Celts and Gauls. Few wizards retained their Mercurian pasts, and so few were worthy of note by the middle of the ninth century.

Then came Bonisagus. His teacher, Albertus, was one of the few that had retained the rituals of Mercury, though he was unable to use any but the simplest of these magics. Upon taking Bonisagus as a student, Albertus resolved to seek out other wizards and gather the lore of the Cult together once more. Through diplomacy, invieglement and downright theft, Albertus and Bonisagus managed to obtain thirty of Plentarch's 38 spells. This was perhaps more of the Cult's magics gathered in one place that had ever been since the death of Christ. This was the legacy handed to Bonisagus, and this, coupled with his razor-sharp brilliance, were two of the three essential ingredients that were to facilitate the formulation of Hermetic Theory. The third ingredient was Bonisagus' own native magic. As well as the learning that Albertus had given him, Bonisagus had the gift of prophecy. He was given to sudden and violent fits in which he would experience visions of startling clarity. These mystic insights were the final keys to unlocking the theories brewing in the mind of the young Bonisagus.

Throughout his travels with his master, he had witnessed many different types of magic. This, coupled with studying the assembled lore of Mercury, brought him to wonder whether there was an overall guiding principle of magic. He wondered whether it would be possible for a single magus to display all of the magical powers that he had seen. By examining these magical traditions, he discovered similarities. Mercurian magic gave him the Forms of the Elements. Natural Magic indicated the importance of animals and plants in any coherent view of magic. Being a Christian and believing in the Divine status of the rational soul, as separate from the souls of animals, he saw the need for a Form that would deal with humans as opposed to other creatures. Two traditions of magic gave him two more Forms - a Dinaric spirit-master by the name of Guorna the Foetid demonstrated to Bonisagus (nearly at the cost of his life) the power of the mind, and a now-forgotten group of mysterious wizards called the praestigia taught him the uses of illusion. The Ars Vis is only required in a coherent system of magic, which is what Bonisagus was trying to achieve. This final art seemed natural to follow from his studies, and while he took the precedent from Aristotle's "fifth element" - the Form of Magic Itself was a creation wholly of the Master.

Use of these powers, though, was somewhat erratic, and he had by no means mastered them all. Bonisagus sought a way in which these ten basic Forms could be controlled. The ancients showed him the way. From the teachings of the Neoplatonists (Plotinus and his successors), Bonisagus adopted the act of creation as the first of his Techniques. This gave him the idea of the Verb-Noun structure of modern Hermetic magic, and he pursued the art of destruction through the Atomists - Democritus and Epicurus. Continuing his inspiration from the Ancients, Bonisagus developed the concept of transformation from the writings of Apuleius, especially The Metamorphoses. Divination was the source of the Ars Intellegentiae, as practised by the soothsayers of Rome and Greece. The art of Control stemmed mainly from the worthies of the Cult of Mercury such as Plentarch and Martius of Tyre.

I don't want the readers of this essay to get the impression that Bonisagus was no more than a plagiarist, or at best a collector of Lore. He was so much more than this. The concept of coupling Technique and Form that is the mainstay of Hermetic Magic was derived in its entirety from the genius of Bonisagus. The identification of the five Techniques and the ten Forms was genius in itself, for it encompasses every action that a magus would desire to perform through magic, with very few exceptions - and those exceptions are believed to be fundamental limits of magic, like piercing the Lunar Sphere. The symbol of House Bonisagus of two crossed keys symbolises the feat of the Founder - the golden key represents Tradition, the silver Innovation, and the symbol as a whole the harmonious interaction of the two.

The other major feat of Bonisagus was the invention of the parma magica. To him, it was an intellectual exercise, separate from his opus of Hermetic Theory, but related to it. However, it was the parma magica that allowed the existence of the Order of Hermes in the first place, and this is where the maga Trianoma enters the story. Trianoma hailed from the Carmargue, and through her hard work she had managed to form an uneasy alliance of wizards to face the threat of the Moors in Iberia. They were called the Pyrenean Alliance, for they considered the Pyrenees to be as far as they were prepared for the Moors to get. The Alliance worked, for a while, and they were able to aid the Franks, lead by Charles Martel, to keep the Moors in Iberia. However, the Alliance was one of necessity - it only existed because of the mutual threat of the Umayyad Caliphate. It was fraught with distrust and treachery, for at this time, magical power was gained through taking it, by force if necessary, from others. Trianoma first came into contact with Bonisagus when searching far afield for more allies. She had heard stories about him from other wizards, and went to see if she could recruit his help. Bonisagus was unwilling to get involved in a magical battle, however, he was more than willing to teach Trianoma what he knew. For five years Trianoma became Bonisagus's apprentice, learning his new theory and the parma magica, and fully realising the potential of what she learnt. With this knowledge, particularly the parma magica, wizards could meet in relative safety, and there would be no need for distrust. With magical knowledge vastly superior to that wizards already practised made freely available, the need for theft and double-dealing would be negated.

With her new-found magic, Trianoma went in search for her former colleagues of the Pyrenean Alliance. The first she approached was Mercere, who was affable and reasonable, and became excited about the concept of an order of mages. The two of them then approached the other members of the Alliance, but only managed to persuade Flambeau, Jerbiton, Verditius and Guernicus of the benefits presented by Bonisagus's new magic. The others were wary (believing it to be a trap), arrogant or sceptical. Guernicus proved the hardest to convince, and only signed up with Trianoma when he realised the calibre of those he would face were he not a member. These four went to the home of Bonisagus in the Black Forest with Mercere, while Trianoma continued to roam Europe in search of other wizards. The five who arrived at Durenmar were taught Hermetic magic in the meantime, and through their knowledge (for they were all powerful wizards in their own rights), Bonisagus refined his theories.

Trianoma travelled first to Ireland, but of all the native magicians there, she was met nothing but ridicule from all bar one. The druids had their own order already, however informal, and their own teaching methods, and saw nothing of worth in the rigid spells of Bonisagus. The exception was a young druid by the name of Dedne, and she travelled to Germany while Trianoma continued searching. She next went to the northern wilds of Jutland, following rumours that she had heard about a witch-bear. This proved to be an inexperienced wizard by the name of Bjornaer, who, having her own enemies, was all too eager to improve her own meagre skills. Bjornaer suggested that Trianoma travel next to the Bialowecza Forest and seek a priestess of the Goddess by the name of Merinita, whom she had heard of. It took her a year of searching to locate Merinita, who was a legend even at that time. The priestess was all too willing to share her knowledge in a new order, and needed little coaching. Next stop for Trianoma was the Dinaric Alps in what is now the Kingdom of Hungary. She was looking for the feared witch Guorna the Foetid, but she had passed on. However, Trianoma did locate two of her former apprentices, by the names of Tytalus and Tremere. Both were accomplished spirit-masters, and once Tytalus had been convinced to join, Tremere followed, not wishing to be threatened by his 'brother'. Trianoma continued to search for wizards in the lands of Byzantium, but failed to find any who were willing to join the Order, so she returned home. Meanwhile, a thirteenth wizard had arrived at Durenmar, unbidden by Trianoma or any of the other wizards. No-one had ever heard of this Criamon before, and his magics proved to be completely different to that of the others. Bonisagus accepted him as his final advanced pupil, and the Order was formed.

So what of the magic of the Founders?

Bjornaer was one of the youngest Founders, older only than Tremere. She came from an ancient line of shapeshifting wizards whose only magic was the ability to take different shapes. She had broken tradition of her people by learning the skills of the cunning folk, and was ostracised by them for that. She found the teaching methods of Bonisagus utterly alien to her, not being descended from the tradition of the Cult of Mercury; and of all the Founders, she adapted to Hermetic magic least well. It was Merinita that taught her Hermetic magic - the priestess had picked up Bonisagus's theory with consummate ease, and was able to teach Bjornaer because their traditions were similar. Bjornaer's contribution to the Order's magic is overlooked in this modern age, but it was by no means inconsequential. She assisted Bonisagus with the art of transformation, which had been based up to then on natural philosophy - which had proved useless with living beings. Her knowledge of the form of Animal was likewise important in the formation of the modern concepts of this power.

Criamon practised the purest magic of all of the Founders, for he was the only one amongst them that used theurgy to the exclusion of all other magic. He lived an ascetic life, and was able to elevate himself to a higher mental state, and thereby use magical powers born purely of his will. His lineage is now obscured in the records of his House, but it is generally accepted that he was of a cadet line of the main Cult of Mercury, who practised theurgy according to the teachings of Plotinus. The rest of the Cult couched their magical practises in complicated rites and incantations, whereas Criamon's ancestors enacted magic by entering a meditative state and contemplating their god. Criamon himself was keen to promote the Order's foundation because he saw it as a means to insure his privacy, and stop him being bothered by other wizards; leaving him time to pursue the Enigma in his meditative journeys. Criamon taught the Order the ability to control Twilight, which now forms a mainstay of an apprenticeship. Without this specialist knowledge, many more magi would be lost to Final Twilight in their prime.

Dedne, like Bjornaer, was a member of a magical tradition which was not rooted in the Cult of Mercury. Some opposed her joining the Order, seeing her as a threat, but she was backed by Trianoma, Bonisagus, Merinita and Jerbiton. Her people practised a form of natural magic, and were also skilled seers. What attracted Bonisagus though, was her facility to improvise spells - mostly minor magics, but requiring no lengthy incantations or set formulae. This skill of Dedne's tradition was incorporated into Hermetic magic as Spontaneous spells, but he was frustrated that he could not give Hermetic magi the full power in these magics possessed by Dedne and her followers. Dedne was a druid, a role which encompassed teacher, priest, advisor and magician to the Brythonic, Gaelic and Gaulish people. Of the few remaining druids, many refused to give up their roles in mundane society according to the edicts of the Order.

Flambeau was born a noble in Iberia, at a time that the Umayyad Caliphate was strongest. He was the most powerful member of the Pyrenean Alliance, and many respected his magic. His control over the elements was goetic magic - lengthy rites in the Mercuric tradition gave him the power to call upon the destructive power of fire at a moment's notice. His master was probably most similar to what we would nowadays refer to as a 'spirit-master', calling upon terrible spirits of death and destruction, though these are generally not considered to be demons. Flambeau inherited these powers as well, thus his magical strategy in battle was flexible and brilliant: he could alternately provide an excellent distraction with a dazzling column of flame or silently remove his opponents and their steeds without a sound. Despite the popular opinion of House Flambeau, their Founder was clear-headed and slow to anger, and once he had been convinced of the advantages of the Order, he was its strongest proponent.

Guernicus was originally known for his skill with the element of Earth. He shared some skills with Flambeau, for he had bargained with a multitude of earth spirits and enlisted their aid. His knowledge of the occult virtues of gemstones was also unrivalled, and he was able to tap their powers to create magical effects. Guernicus was better known for his great scepticism over the success of the order, estimating that it would last no longer than the lifespan of its youngest member. Trianoma, sick of his cynical comments, manoeuvred him into accepting the role of magistrate, policing the other wizards, keeping peace and enforcing the Code. He studied the arts of Intellego and Mentem with fervour, and passed this knowledge onto his apprentices. He also worked with Jerbiton to develop rituals that would be unique to his House, and enable his successors to do their job efficiently.

Jerbiton was another who was a noble by birth, a member of an old Roman patrician family that had survived into the Dark Ages. He was well-known for his fine taste for the human pleasures - music and other arts. He travelled a lot after inheriting his magical powers from his master, and grew excited about the prospect of the Pyrenean Alliance, seeing it as a chance for wizards to co-operate in peace and develop traditions of art and philosophy. This was clearly not the case, and he was therefore somewhat sceptical when he heard about the Order of Hermes from Trianoma. He went to study with Bonisagus, and soon saw the wisdom of the Order, and became very involved in its organisation, basing its structure on the government of Rome. Jerbiton was a natural magician, though his knowledge was somewhat piecemeal, absorbing different aspects of magic as he came across them. He was therefore pleased to learn a more coherent form of magic. His biggest gift to the new Order was some texts he had inherited from his master detailing magics of the Cult of Mercury hitherto unknown to Bonisagus. Jerbiton was the most knowledgeable of the Founders of Ritual magic because of this inheritance, and he was happy to share his knowledge with the rest of the Order.

Mercere was a natural magician and alchemist. Like many wizards of the age, he had a wanderlust, but his was surpassed by none. His travels took him to distant Araby and Persia, where he learnt the secrets of alchemy. He was probably the most powerful natural magician of the day, and taught Bonisagus nearly as much as he learnt, refining the art of transformation in Hermetic theory. After the magical accident which put pay to his Gift, Mercere continued to support the Order with his enthusiasm and determination.

Merinita, as already mentioned, was a priestess of the Goddess, whom she referred to as 'Moist Mother Earth', 'the Eternal Spirit of the Wilds', and 'the Queen of the Heavens', among other names. Her magic was powerful and mysterious, born of the very earth itself, and there is little doubt that she was the most accomplished of the Founders in matters of magic, saving perhaps only Bonisagus. Her magic was in tune with nature, but bore remarkable similarities to the Roman magic of the Cult of Mercury, and it is possible that she was descended from the priesthood of Roman deities such as Juno, Ceres, or terrible Cybele. She assisted Bjornaer to get over her mental block with Hermetic magic, and taught the other Founders the secrets of Longevity potions. With Bonisagus she developed the Three Cords of binding a familiar, while ensuring that a bond could not be established without mutual trust and agreement between man and beast. Her knowledge of living things, particularly plants, was unrivalled. After spending a couple of decades assisting the formation of the Order and her House, she returned to the wilds. The modern focus of House Merinita with the fae was a product of the first primus Merinitae, Quendalon, who is widely believed to have been a faerie himself. Faerie magic is only nominally Hermetic.

Tremere was the youngest and weakest of the Founders, and was considered for joining the Order on the strength of his master's reputation. Guorna the Foetid was a powerful spirit-master, though Tremere found it difficult to learn her arts fully. Tremere had the power of Enchantment, and was somewhat skilled at manipulating the minds of others, but this proved to be of little use in the Order, with the development of the parma magica. Tremere was prolific at training apprentices - he took to Hermetic magic well, because he was not already deeply entrenched in another magical tradition, like all of the other Founders. His greatest contribution to the Order was the rite of certmen, which he developed with the assistance of Bonisagus - this was a boon to the Order as it enabled magi to settle differences without causing loss of life. Tremere became the master of certmen through his own secret tricks, which he taught to all his apprentices but no other. Through the political power that mastery over certmen gave, the House of Tremere soon became a leading force in the Order, lead by Tremere himself, who was the longest living of all of the Founders.

Trianoma appears to modern eyes as a paragon of virtue, and a veritable polymath. Not only was she a skilled wizard (she managed to hold her own against the assaults of Tytalus), but she was a puissant diplomat, a clever theoretician and, most of all, a visionary. Her importance is overlooked today, for, when the Order was big enough to divide into Houses, she and her apprentices decided not to form their own House but to become part of House Bonisagus. She continued to work behind the scenes, smoothing over the schism in House Merinita upon the return of Quendalon, covering up the depravations of Crasseus, a Criamon who went mad at the end of the ninth century, and various other deeds for which she is rarely properly accredited. Little is known about her magic before she learnt Hermetic magic, except that she was of the Roman tradition. It is likely that she was a natural magician, but it was her facility to absorb learning from Bonisagus during her advanced apprenticeship that she is best known for. She mastered the intricacies of the theory in remarkable time, then immediately went out to demonstrate its advantages, sending magi on to Durenmar to be taught by her mentor.

Tytalus was the most pugnacious of the Founders, and the threat that he posed was one of the main driving forces to the creation of an Order where magi could live in peace. He was a powerful spirit-master, having been trained by Guorna the Foetid, and commanded many spirits which he sent against his enemies - who were, as far as he was concerned, all other wizards. He had a fair bit of knowledge about the spirits controlled by the Cult of Mercury, this knowledge having been passed down from Guorna. They used earth spirits to guard their temples, water spirits to guide Roman ships, and air spirits to carry messages. Spirits of darkness would see of their enemies, and planetary spirits would advise the high priests of the cult. Tytalus knew of all these spirits and more, and didn't want the Order to form at first, because this would mean a dilution of his power. Once Trianoma had demonstrated the versatility of Hermetic magic to him, his opinions changed. He saw the Order as a breeding ground for more worthy opponents, and joined, turning his violent attentions towards those that didn't. It was perhaps this fascination with spirits that lead to the disgrace of the House in the tenth century. Tytali nowadays avoid the magical tradition of their Founder, realising its perils.

Verditius hailed originally from Sicily, though his tradition harked back to Ancient Greece. At the time of the foundation of the Order, Verditius and his young apprentice were perhaps the only two priest of Vulcan left in Europe. The cult of Vulcan was important in days of Rome for Vulcan was the god of the River Tiber as well as of volcanoes and artificers. Verditius was well-known for his inability to cast spells; however, his skill lay in awakening and enhancing the natural magic of inanimate objects. He practised astral magic, calling down the power of the stars and locking them into items of his own manufacture. It was his apprentice Fenistour who discovered how to bypass this spell-casting inhibition by guiding the magic through specially prepared objects which were created according to the principles of astral magic. Verditius possibly contributed more to the magic of the Order than any other of the Founders, Dedne excepted. Before he and Bonisagus met, there was no provision in Hermetic theory for the creation of magical objects, for it was a skill that Bonisagus knew nothing about. After learning Hermetic magic, Verditius was able to adapt what he knew about creating magical items so that it fitted in with Bonisagus's theory. There were still some things that the two found difficult to adapt, which is why the Verditii are the Order's premier creators of magical objects, as they still practise the remnants of Verditius's original magic.

 

 

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